Former head of Volkswagen could face 10 years in prison

16 April, 2019, 09:39 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Former head of Volkswagen could face 10 years in prison

German prosecutors charged former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and four others with fraud in the emissions cheating scandal that has helped turn many Europeans against diesel engines and accelerated the push toward electric cars.

The alleged offences of Winterkorn and the other unnamed managers took place between November 2006 and September 2015, according to prosecutors in Braunschweig, near VW's global headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Mr Winterkorn is already facing criminal charges in the United States, but is unlikely to face trial there, as Germany does not extradite its citizens.

Winterkorn, who became VW's chief executive in 2007, resigned soon after the scandal over polluting vehicles broke in 2015. Winterkorn, 71, remains in Germany, which does not typically extradite its citizens for prosecution in USA courts.

They also claim Winterkorn approved a software update, at a cost of €23 million (£19.8 million), that was "useless" but served to "continue obscuring" the use of the defeat device systems.

Winterkorn and the others face from six months to 10 years imprisonment if convicted on charges of aggravated fraud involving serious losses.

Criminal proceedings against the carmaker over the rigged tests had already resulted in a one billion euro fine in June a year ago, marking one of the highest ever punitive payments imposed by German authorities against a company.

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The case, consisting of a 692-page indictment backed by 300 file volumes holding 75,000 pages, was filed in a local court in Braunschweig on Friday.

Prosecutors said Winterkorn was accused of a particularly serious case of fraud, breach of trust and breaching competition laws because he had not acted - despite having a special responsibility to do so as the company's CEO - after it became clear on May 25, 2014, that diesel engines had been manipulated.

The scandal sparked investigations in Germany and other countries.

As well as failing to inform authorities of the cheating, VW "with the knowledge and approval of Winterkorn" issued a software update in November 2014 whose only objective was to cover up the so-called "defeat devices" that enabled the cheating, said the statement.

Prosecutors are continuing to investigate 36 more defendants and have yet to decide whether to charge them. Investors in Germany are also seeking damages over VW's failure to disclose the issue.

In a statement Felix Dörr, Winterkorn's lawyer, said the prosecutors had not given the defence enough time to read and comment on new evidence presented in the indictment.

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